The Emperor Of Ice Cream By Wallace Stevens



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Continuing education: you will also want to read The Snow Man, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Lunar Paraphrase, and, finally, Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour (personally, my second favorite Wallace Stevens poem).Report

  2. Avatar Michelle says:

    Well, if I had to pick a favorite Wallace Stevens poem, this would be The Poems of Our Climate.

    Re-Statement of Romance comes in a close second.

    I almost had it read at our wedding but thought people might find it a tad bleak.

    Stevens is one of my favorite poets, even if I’m never really sure what his a lot poems mean. But they’re just so wonderful to read aloud. That said, I’ve never really liked The Emperor of Ice Cream and, were this poem all I knew of Stevens, I doubt I’d be a fan. I do like your interpretation of it though, Jay. I might have to reconsider.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michelle says:


      That’s one of those things that I see other people describe him as that I don’t really see. Okay, maybe Lunar Paraphrase. But, for the most part, I see him as almost naively describing the things that he sees before him and, if he’s to be faulted, he’s to be faulted for being childishly honest.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t see it either. Irreverent, maybe, at times profound, at times profoundly un-profound, at times abtruse, but rarely bleak even when he’s talking about death. Because as I mentioned, “death is the mother of beauty,” and he uses it as a celebration of life (see Sunday Morning).

        Bleak is more like,

        I cannot live with you
        It would be Life
        And Life is over there
        Behind the Shelf

        That’s some bleakness.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to Jaybird says:

        I should clarify. I don’t find the poem bleak but felt others might especially at a wedding since, to me, it’s basically saying that no matter how close to someone else we get, we’re still essentially alone. Plus, The Russian didn’t like it. Nor does he have much use for Wallace Stevens. Not enough rhyme for him. Apparently, in Russia, all poems must rhyme.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Cursed Pushkin.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I used to agree 100% with The Russian on that.

        Then I met Morrissey.

        In any case, I understand the whole “essentially alone” thing, but it’s very nice to find someone with whom you can be essentially alone.Report

  3. Avatar Zac says:

    Wait…is that Jaybird in the video?Report

  4. Avatar Zac says:

    As someone who’s been reading this site since nearly its inception, I had no idea what Jaybird looked or sounded like, but that was not even close to what I imagined in my head.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Zac says:

      My regular speaking voice is probably a note or two higher than that.

      I get all “chest voice” when I read poetry.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Zac says:

      I have actually taken and bottled up what I figured Jaybird to look and sound like and have decided that I will take that and use it in a novel some day as a side character. (His bottle is standing next to Tod Kelly’s, who – if I ever write said novel – will be a chief of staff and advisor to a governor in the Mountain West). I haven’t figured out what I will use Jaybird for.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        I would like to be a character, with the understanding that I will a.) be a decidedly evil villain, and b.) have the ability to shoot flames out of my eyes. If b.) is not possible, then shooting flames out of some other part of my body will suffice.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        The fat bearded guy who explains the universe!

        “If you’re so freakin’ smart, why are you behind the counter at a gas station?”

        “Time to read. Slushpuppies. The ability to go home and think about things that aren’t my job.”

        (edit to bring it home)

        “It can’t pay that much.”

        “The only emperor is the emperor of Slushpuppies.”Report

      • be a decidedly evil villain

        Will do! Warning, though, you might reform at some point…

        have the ability to shoot flames out of my eyes.

        Will do! Maybe the eyes, maybe the ears. (“What’s that, I can’t hear you! {blast} BWAHAHAHA!”)Report

      • The fat bearded guy who explains the universe!

        Actually, imagined you had a mustache with only a slight goatee down at the bottom. He was also somewhere on the order of 6’6″ and had black hair.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        I will cop to considerable beard envy. When I try for anything but a goatee I look like I’m growing a damaged Chia Pet on my face.Report

      • Grows in very unevenly for me. I have a non-connecting stache-goatee when I have facial hair. When I try to grow it all out, it actually looks kinda cool on one side. It’s almost a bit like this dude’s. But on the other side it’s a mess. I get like a love patch on my cheek.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will, you have a magnificent hairline.

        Chris, I hope that you have a magnificent hairline.

        I used to have one. I had Jesus hair.

        Then atheist god struck me down. For Pride.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Zac says:

      Sounds like a great post topic, or even a contest. What does everyone think contributor X look/sound like?Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    Speaking of the poem itself, I always figured “Let be be finale of seem” was not only where we are told that we’re in the presence of death, but that it’s where we get told what the poem as a whole is supposed to tell us, specifically that death puts an end to the illusions of life (the social? our fantasies about ourselves and others?), lays it bare so to speak, and leaves us with only what is.

    I’m trying hard not to read it in the context of Sunday Morning, but with its focus on the value of this life even in the absence of another above, before, and after it, that’s the message I get: death brings into stark relief the reality of life in its finitude, and essentially demands that you cut the shit out and live for what is, for what’s now, for what’s good. The only emperor is the Emperor of Ice Cream.Report

  6. Avatar Chris says:

    Or maybe:

    Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
    And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
    Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
    Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
    Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
    Passing through nature to eternity.

    Ay, madam, it is common.

    If it be,
    Why seems it so particular with thee?

    Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.’
    ‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
    Nor customary suits of solemn black,
    Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
    No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
    Nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage,
    Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
    That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
    For they are actions that a man might play:
    But I have that within which passeth show;
    These but the trappings and the suits of woe.Report